Last night in Paris.. I mean Ketchikan

Tomorrow night is the big day. 80+ miles, single-handing, hand steering. It’s what this entire week has been leading up to and for which I’ve been preparing. Still, it’s a little daunting to think about. Daunting, anxiety-inducing, and yet also with a large helping of curiousity and excitement for the challenge ahead. Still, it’s important to go into it with open eyes and with pre-thought.

The weather here in Ketchikan for the last two days has been awesome. It’s like Ketchikan is putting her best sunday go to meeting clothes on in an effort to entice me to stay. What it does do, though, is offer a temptation to get to Prince Rupert early since the days are so beautiful. It’s important not to give into the temptation and go off half-cocked, though. Discipline and careful, methodical, preparation.

Today was rigging a bunch of things as well as creating a clean cockpit. Most importantly were the jack lines. These are lines that run along the deck. You tether yourself to them and they allow you to move forward and aft. If you are, for some reason, knocked overboard, the tether keeps you with the boat. Since there’s noone else on the boat to turn around and come back to me, it’s important that I stay with the boat.

The second thing to rig was a way to get back ONTO the boat if I go overboard. I’ve rigged the boarding ladder so that I can bring it down if I need it, even if I’m in the water. Until I yank that lanyard, though, it’s securely on the boat and won’t come off.

I’ve also rigged lashing for the dinghy that can be released quickly. Though, in truth, if I have to release it in an emergency, I might just cut the lashings since, at that point, I’ve determined that Opus is sinking. What’s a few cut lines in that case?

I’ve also been attending to the little tasks such as refilling the water tank. It really didn’t need to be refilled, but there’s a comfort in knowing that Opus is full. In addition, it helps with stability by adding weight below the water line.

I’ve looked at the fuel gauge and it reads 7/8s of a tank. You would think that would mean 7/8 * 25 (Opus’ tank has 25 gallon capacity) but of course, nothing is that simple. The fuel tank doesn’t seem to be a regular shape. Thus, there is more fuel in the top 1/8th of the tank than there is in the bottom 1/8th. By carefully monitoring how much fuel is put in, I’ve determined that at 3/4, Opus has about 16-17 gallons of fuel instead of the expected 18. At 0.71 per hour of fuel consumption, that’s more than 20 hours of operation. So why don’t I top it up?

The simple answer is because I don’t want to be storing partially filled fuel jerry cans on the deck. I want them either full or empty, not in between. I may, about 1/2 way along the trip, refuel from my ready supply (5 gallons) jerry can. That is an additional 6 hours of operation, so there’s plenty of fuel handy.

For people concerned about spillage, there is none. I use a shaker siphon (self-priming siphon) to transfer the fuel. As long as I hold the can so that it can’t slip and there is enough room in the fuel tank for the entire fuel load, no spillage is really possible.

I’ve been toying with three possible departure times because of trying to balance various factors. The first factor is safety. I’m not fooling myself that this trip is “safe”, but I’m trying to minimize the risks. The second factor is speed. The faster I make the transit, the less time I have to spend at the helm. The third factor is waterways. I can’t transit the shortcut waterway unless we’re at 1/4 to 1/2 tide rather than low tide – and I’d prefer the tide be coming in. Lastly is when the destination will have a berth available for me. My nominal check-in time is 15:00. I can probably check in before then. However, it does me no good to arrive too early because I won’t be able to dock. I’ll end up having to float, remain alert, and avoid traffic when what I really will want to do is simply take a nap.

Oh, did I mention that I also have to go through Customs? So add on some time to do that too.

Did I mention that I really don’t want to be docking when the current is running fast — and it DOES run fast at Prince Rupert, reaching as high as 5.5 knots on Monday. Considering my cruising speed is 5.5 knots with a maximum of just over 6 knots (at greatly increased fuel consumption), you can see the problem, I think… I want to arrive at slack tide!

So the departure depends on balancing all those factors (other than safety – that always has priority). As I get more accurate wind forecasts as we get closer to departure, the departure time wobbles. Right now I’m looking at three possible departure times:

17:00 Sunday, 21:00 Sunday, 05:00 Monday

We’ll see which one I eventually go with.

As usual, I’ll have the tracker running for those people with whom I’ve shared access. Keep your eye out!

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